Did sex offender revelations derail Fells Point Corner Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Did sex offender revelations derail Fells Point Corner Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’?

Local theatre-lovers were shocked on Thursday to learn that less than 48 hours before opening night, Fells Point Corner Theatre (FPCT) had cancelled the entire run of “A Christmas Carol.” The production – which was being staged at FPCT in partnership with The Collaborative Theatre (TCT) – was scheduled to open tonight and run until Dec. 31.

A joint press release stated that, “A complex and troubling set of circumstances has unfolded, and the accumulation of new information has presented us with no option but to cancel in this late stage.”

In a subsequent email, FPCT press told the Baltimore Post-Examiner, “The circumstances surrounding our decision were based on new revelations regarding past events that took place well beyond our theatre, beyond our city, involving one of the members of the cast, and an apparent mounting public concern regarding them.” Though nothing more specific was said about the “new revelations… involving one of the members of the cast”, the Post-Examiner has learned that TCT member and former company president Steven Shriner – who was set to play Scrooge – is a registered sex offender.

A publicity shot of actor Steven Shriner from the The Collaborative Theatre production of ‘A Christmas Carol’. As of November 16, Shriner was still listed on the group’s Facebook page as Scrooge.

It is unclear when TCT and FPCT learned that Shriner is a registered sex offender, or what steps they took when that information became known. The actor had appeared at Fells Point Corner Theatre as recently as September of this year in a revival of Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet.”

Efforts to reach Andrew Porter of FPCT, and Ann Turiano, Interim President of TCT, to establish a complete timeline, were not successful as of press time.

The aforementioned email response from FPCT said:

“At this time we do not have any further information to offer to the press regarding our canceling of the show beyond our initial statement.”

However, Facebook posts on the TCT page intimate that trouble with Shriner has been brewing for at least a month.

A Nov. 6, 2017 post reads:

“Effective immediately, Steven Shriner has resigned as President of The Collaborative Theatre Company and will no longer serve on the board. We would like to thank him sincerely for all he has done to make The Collaborative a thriving theater company and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Four days later, on Nov.10, 2017, TCT posted:

“Motivated by the ongoing conversation spurred by the City Paper’s recent article detailing sexual harassment in the local arts scene, The Collaborative Theatre Company would like to publicly declare our commitment to accountability within our own operations as a member of the small theater community in Baltimore.”

The post later continued, “The Collaborative Theatre Company hereby denounces those who would alienate, abuse, oppress, or belittle their fellow artists and citizens. We commit to strive for a zero-tolerance policy towards violence in any form.

“Further, we recognize that theater companies are comprised of individuals with personal frailties of character, and while we recognize and support those who seek repentance, we must be unfailing in providing a just and rational assessment of all complaints and situations. To that end, the individuals of The Collaborative Theatre Company pledge to better ourselves, to welcome criticism of our biases, to answer to accountability, and to open our creative arms to all views. Most importantly, we stand for a safe working environment for all our collaborators. We hope the entire community will join us in this endeavor.”

No mention of Shriner by name appeared in the November 10 post. But on November 16, TCT updated the cover photo of its Facebook page with a publicity shot of Shriner as Scrooge.

It is unknown if the company replaced Shriner before yesterday’s decision to cancel the show, or (if not) if his continued presence in the cast was the reason for shutting down the production. Again, the FPCT email simply said, “The circumstances surrounding our decision were based on new revelations regarding past events that took place well beyond our theatre, beyond our city, involving one of the members of the cast, and an apparent mounting public concern regarding them.”

Shriner last registered as a sex offender in Maryland on September 9, 2017. He is currently under the supervision of the Special Offender Unit of the Baltimore Police Department. Shriner is considered a Tier III Registrant.

The Maryland Sex Offender Registry shows that Shriner was originally convicted on August 13, 2004 in Mercer, New Jersey. The charge is listed as sodomy.

An overview of Shriner’s New Jersey case available online states:

“Following a bench trial, defendant was convicted of second-degree attempted sexual assault, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c) (count one); third-degree luring or enticing a child, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6 and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 (count two); attempted endangering the welfare of a child, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a) and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 (count three); fourth-degree attempted criminal sexual contact, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b) and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 (count four); and fourth-degree endangering the welfare of a child (possession of child pornography), contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(5)(b) (count five). Counts two, three, and four were merged into count one and defendant was sentenced to six years in the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. He received a concurrent term of eighteen months for the conviction on the fifth count.”

Canceling an entire production at such a late date is virtually unheard of. In the event of an unforseen circumstance involving an actor, it is customary for the production to employ a replacement actor who would do the performance on book. By and large, theatre audiences are very forgiving when an actor is asked to step in at the 11th hour and assume a role.

Theatre veteran Mark Redfield told the Post-Examiner, “I can’t remember an entire run being canceled in my time. Postponements or delays in opening nights, sure. But not that close to opening night.

“48 hours before opening can be costly, and that money spent on production can’t be recouped for many small independent theaters. Most Baltimore theaters must carry accident and liability insurance in order to open their doors to the public, but I’m doubtful that small theaters carry insurance to cover cancellations.”

Steven Shriner’s Maryland Sex Offender Registry profile.

TCT’s November 6 Facebook post. (screenshot)

TCT’s November 10 Facebook Post. (screenshot)


About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at The Washington Herald and an occasional contributor to the Voice of Baltimore, Tony's poetry, photography, humor and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!; SmartCEO; Magic Octopus Magazine; Destination Maryland; Los Angeles Post-Examiner; Alvarez Fiction and Tales of Blood and Roses. Contact the author.
COMMENT POLICY
  • Will Allen

    So funny. Is there any bottom for the “SEX Offender” witch hunt? It seems as if nothing is too low, worse-than-worthless, un-American, or dumb for the witch hunters/terrorists.

    If only this lead actor was a paroled murderer. Or had merely shot someone while robbing them. Then he would’ve been safe. Then everything would’ve been fine with the witch hunters/terrorists.

    BTW folks, we all need to see that there are no reasons to forgive people or treat them decently. Make sure you remember that this holiday season. People should not be surprised as they see the hate flow. It is what everyone wants and needs.

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